Tag Archives: friends

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #42

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List the ways money cannot buy happiness:

  • Money cannot buy respect. It has to be earned. Mostly, I have no trouble with that. Still, I remember bringing my two little grandsons up north to spend a week with me on Beaver Island. Michael was seven years old; Brandon was five. We traveled from Lapeer to Charlevoix in my Aunt Katie’s  brand new Trailblazer. We flew across to the island in a pretty impressive little airplane. Then we walked across to the parking lot, where my battered and dust-covered three hundred dollar island “beater” was waiting. Michael’s little face fell. “Grandma Cindy, your car is a piece of garbage,” he said, and I believe in that instant, his estimation of me dropped a little, too. I laughed and told him, seriously, “Why, Michael, this is the best car I’ve ever owned!” I loaded boys and luggage, and we rattled off for home. I had a full week to bolster up his opinion of me. Long drives in my old car delivered them to sandy beaches in the daytime, and down tree covered roads after dark as we – all dressed in our pajamas – went to see what the island looked like by moonlight. We traveled to shops and stores and the Toy Museum; we went fishing, rock collecting, swimming and dune climbing. That old car would come to a quick stop for getting a better look at bird, squirrel or deer. or when either little boy yelled “Can!” Then, one of them would exit the car to retrieve the sighted aluminum can, for the ten-cent profit it would bring. By the time the week was up, Michael had decided my car wasn’t so bad. A shiny new vehicle in that parking lot, though, would have garnered instant respect from that seven-year-old boy!
  • Money can’t fill lonely days…
  • It can’t give recognition for a job well-done…
  • And it can’t turn sadness around. But it often feels like it might, and I’ve frequently stopped at the store, or went on-line shopping, just to test the possibility.
  • Money can’t buy love. Even though teen-agers would often try to convince otherwise. Most love comes by happy accident (as in the many good friends that have happened into my life) or undeserved blessings (as in my children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers and other family members who I am so fortunate to have in my life at all, doubly fortunate that we all love each other). Sometimes, though, you have to look for love, pursue it, or work for it. That seems, often, like a job best suited to those with youth and beauty, and the confidence that comes with those attributes. So, usually, I put ideas of love or romance “on the shelf.” I don’t think about it, or I think, “I’m too old for that.” And that works…most of the time.
  • Money can’t buy all the myriad of little things that bring me joy on a daily basis: the color of the sky; wag-tail dogs; roads lined with trees; the sound of waves; sunrise, sunset and the moon and stars. All the best things are free!

The 52 Lists project #46

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List your greatest comforts:

  • Family. Those people that love me and accept me no matter what, that put up with my bad humor, differing political opinions and incessant whining with grace, that shore me up with their unwavering devotion…they are my greatest comfort.
  • Friends. The gift of understanding, shared experience and laughter is a huge comfort.
  • My dogs, with their trust and unwavering faithfulness, for their warmth and closeness, for how they make me smile.
  • My books. When I read books on simplifying and clearing space, I get agitated when the conversation turns to getting rid of books. I can let go of some stuff…but generally not books.
  • My peach sweatshirt. I found it in a secondhand store, in perfect condition. I  irreparably stained it the first time I wore it. Still, it’s warm and comfortable, and long enough to hide the belly fat.
  • My health insurance. It usually only covers a fraction of the cost of an office call, lab work or prescriptions (though it paid for a flu shot entirely!) but it’s a big comfort knowing it is there if I get seriously ill.
  • My job…because it is awfully nice to be able to pay your own way in this world.
  • My memory. I’m not entirely comfortable that it will always be with me – sometimes it fails me already – but right now, it is a solace to know that I can pull up people and events from my past to revisit loved ones and relive precious moments.
  • My daily journal. To remind me of what I’ve done…and what I need to do.

The 52 Lists Project #7

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Week #7: List all the people who brighten your day

My family:

  • My daughters, Jen and Kate, who are both intelligent, witty, beautiful and fun, and each bring their own unique gifts to my life.
  • My brothers and sisters, every one. With laughter, generosity, understanding, caring and shared history and memories, my sibling enrich and brighten all my days.
  • My parents, who each gave me such good lessons as to how to approach a situation, deal with adversity and keep a sense of humor about what life deals out, continue to brighten my days. Their lessons carry on; they are still with me in spirit.

My friends:

The ones that are here on Beaver Island, that I see often; the ones in distant places that I see rarely; the ones I share long history with; the ones I just got to know… my friends keep me grounded, remind me what’s important, and bring joy to my life.

My co-workers:

I’ve discovered some of the dearest people through work. I have forged life-long friendships with people I would otherwise have little in common with, through just working together. Emma Jean Belfy, Catherine White and Chris Butler came into my life through my first job here on Beaver Island, serving breakfast at the Shamrock Bar. There have been dozens of others over the years. Last Sunday, I was working alone at the hardware. John Runberg, who works with me there a couple days a week, called me from his home.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. I was just thinking about buying a candy bar,” I answered.

“Just give me a few minute,” he said, “I’ll bring you some breakfast.”

Days don’t get much brighter than that!

Where’s the Joy?

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It seems that I have dropped into my – almost annual – birthday funk.

It is not my birthday yet…but it’s coming.

There have been a few years where the day has come and gone without the usual feelings of depression and sadness   but they are a rare exception.

It’s not the age that bothers me.

Sometimes it’s the lack of accomplishment, though that was more pertinent when I was younger. I had a whole list of things I had hoped to accomplish by the time I turned thirty – or even forty – but I never really thought I’d have anything left to accomplish if I was still around at this age (I’ll be turning 63), so I am not disappointed. Still being here, I guess, is an accomplishment!

Sometimes it’s loneliness. My mother used to say I was ” the most anti-social” of all of her children (I’m sure she meant that in the nicest possible way!), and she was probably right. Usually, I’m not bothered by being alone; often I relish it. Not on Christmas, though, and not on my birthday.

Sometimes it’s just that I am generally overwhelmed and exhausted.

Sometimes it’s remembering other years, and the losses that have marked the passage of time.

Sometimes it’s just habit.

I have just had an entire frenzied month that included two trips to the mainland, an open house, a class reunion, a memorial for a dear uncle and three weeks with my granddaughter here on the island. All of my sisters have been here for a wonderful, fun week, as well as nieces and nephews and friends and cousins…and I’m tired.

This is a busy time of year here on Beaver Island. The Fourth of July festivities were followed in quick succession by the Beaver Island Music Fest; Museum Week, including an art show that I participate in; “Baroque on Beaver” concerts and activities; a Bike Fest; “Meet the Artists” at Livingstone Studio, which I also participate in; Home-Coming Weekend, and now Jazz Fest. Add to that the people that come for birding, kayaking and camping, or just the basic warm weather and  beautiful beaches. Visitors to the island mean customers in the stores. Though we appreciate the business and love to see the people come, all who work in the service industries feel the strain by the time August rolls around.

Clearly, I have too much on my plate. I wonder about my sanity in taking on the Beaver Beacon. Even with good help – and my partners are wonderful – it is a huge responsibility that seems overwhelming much of the time. I cut my hours at the hardware to make time for the news magazine, so my income hasn’t changed – except for the things I’ve had to purchase and the times I’ve had to supplement it’s bank account out of my personal funds – but my stress level certainly has.

This month, that features many birthdays and wedding anniversaries in my family, also holds the sad memories of many losses. Both of my parents died in August. So did my sister, Sheila. My Grandma Thelma died around the end of August, when I was a child.

Though I loved my Grandma, I was a selfish child. Her death affected me mostly because I didn’t get a birthday party that year. My poor, harried mother – with seven little children and another on the way, with a husband who worked long hours and didn’t like hospitals, with no brothers or sisters to help, with her mother dying in the hospital – gave me a hug, handed me an unwrapped chapter book (my precious Heidi, that I treasure, still) and said, “This year, this will have to do…happy birthday!”

What?! No party? No balloons? No festivities? Does nobody love me? Does no one care? Am I the least favorite child in this whole family? I embarked on a major “Feeling Sorry For Myself” jag that became so enjoyable in it’s intensity, it became habit, and an almost annual tradition. It is with me, still. I recognize it, and even laugh at myself most of the time for my childish mournfulness (“My sisters will all be gone by my birthday, and I’ll be alone…and my kids will probably forget to call…and I have to work…”)…but I know to be careful, too. What starts as a little self-indulgent self pity can turn into a major depression if I let it go on unchecked.

Clearly, I have matured. I work at avoiding depression; I look for joy. I spend my birthday with good intentions and good memories.

This year, in fact, I think I’ll mark my birthday with a list of 63 joyful things I’d still like to accomplish in this life!

A Wonderful Life

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Today was a great day at work, with friendly customers, impressive progress on ambitious projects, nice dogs (my boss is also a veterinarian) and good laughs.

After work I dropped in on a friend. I wanted to see how his house painting was coming along. He poured me a glass of port wine. We had a nice visit.

I then met my friend, Judi, at the restaurant for a tasty perch dinner. We don’t see much of each other lately, and it was wonderful to be able to catch up. I’m afraid I did most of the talking, but she was very gracious about it.

After dinner we went to town, to see a play.

It was not a live action play of the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, but a play depicting a live radio performance of It’s a Wonderful Life. Think of Our Town combined with Garrison Keillor’s Radio Show with one of my all time favorite Christmas movies as material, and performed by folks I know and love.

The characters sat in chairs across the stage. Each played many roles. with dramatic voice changes and hats or halos put on and removed as the only costume changes. Expressions were marvelous! It was an outstanding performance!

It was an all-around exemplary day.

Sometimes it really is a wonderful life!

Sixty-One Blessings

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Last year, in honor of my sixtieth birthday, I compiled a list of the 60 most influential women in my life.

The list included family members, friends, poets, activists and authors.

I intended to write a blog about each person on the list.

I considered gathering recipes from each person, living or dead. I already have Emily Dickinson’s “Black Cake” recipe! My list, and the essays, combined with photos and recipes  could be assembled into a nice book, I thought.

In the course of the entire last year, I wrote three essays on women from my list: Mom (#1), Johanna Spyri (#38) and Emma Jean (#24).

That’s me, full of ideas…brimming with good intentions. My life is punctuated by unfinished projects!

Still, it was a good exercise, just writing the names. It caused me to think about who influenced my life, and how, and why.

For my birthday this year, I’m counting blessings.

First, two parents who loved their children and always did their best.

Five grandparents: four that I knew personally and loved; one that I was acquainted with only through her photo – always on display in my childhood home – and the stories my Dad told.

Ten siblings: I’m eternally grateful for every single one of them. Each one – even those that died in infancy – has helped to guide and shape my life.

Two daughters: by far the most heart-wrenching, soul-stretching, life-enriching blessings in my life.

Four strong, smart and handsome grandsons.

One charming, intelligent and beautiful granddaughter.

Three in-laws: father, mother and sister, who I’m glad to have known.

Seventeen nieces and nephews. And now their children…and their children’s children.

Other relatives: aunts and uncles and cousins.

Friends: I’m happy to say I’ve gained at least as many as I’ve lost over the years, and appreciate every single one.

Two sweet dogs.

Three one-hundred-year-old Maple trees on the north side of my house.

Six jobs. No, maybe seven.

Two vehicles: both in good running order.

One non-running vehicle that has served me well as a “garage”.

A fresh, unopened bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

My mother’s hope chest!

Seventy-five cookbooks!

Paul McCartney’s autograph!!

Almost one hundred birthday greetings on my Facebook page!

Cards and gifts from family and friends!

Phone calls from loved ones on my birthday!

Clearly, I should be much older than this.

Sixty-one is too small a number, for counting all the blessings in my life!

and a Merry, Merry Christmas…

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I’m up early, early this Christmas morning.

I’ve baked  egg and spinach pie and have dough rising for dinner rolls, and it’s not yet 6AM.

As a child, Christmas Eve seemed unbearable to wait through, sleep was almost impossible, listening for sleigh bells and magic, and Christmas morning started early.

When my own children were small, it was the same. The anticipation of what Santa left under the tree always woke my daughters early. Never wanting to miss a moment of their excitement was what roused me, no matter how late the wrapping and arranging and last minute preparations had gone.

I grew up in a large family and – due to simply the number of children receiving gifts – the tree on Christmas morning was awesome to behold.

Later, celebrating Christmas morning with my small family, I’d have to talk myself down from near panic at the idea of “not enough”. It was impressed in my subconscious that a Christmas morning tree should be almost buried in packages…that presents should spill out from under the tree and take up significant space in the room. Many times Christmas Eve night was spent with me madly sewing or crocheting last minute gifts, just to make a more impressive show.

This year, with no reason in the world to be up before the sun, it was pleasant thoughts and memories that woke me.

It’s easy, over the holidays, to get in a funk over what has changed.

Being big on melancholy, I usually indulge.

There are the sweet childhood memories, and all of that innocent time long behind me.

There are precious memories with my own daughters, now grown and far away.

Grandchildren that I won’t see, this year on Christmas.

Friends and acquaintances that I’ve lost contact with over the years.

There are people, so close to my heart, no longer here.

It’s sometimes too easy to dwell on loss. Not today.

But the memories are precious; I don’t push them away.

They are a part of my own history, and good company this Christmas morning.

Distractions

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The dog days of summer.

Heat.

Humidity.

Lethargy.

We take our walk early, the dogs and I, before the sun gets too high in the sky. I take a cup of coffee with me these days. No brisk walk for exercise, but rather a leisurely stroll. I watch the dogs chase chipmunks and listen to the birds and chipmunks tease them from the treetops. When my coffee mug is empty, I fill it with wild blackberries. Leaves are already turning color in the woods. Cool mornings make me aware that Fall is just around the corner. Sometimes, back home, I sit in the shade of the maple tree with a book, savoring wild berries for breakfast, enjoying the breeze, slowly getting ready for my day.

The days are busy enough.

Many employees have gone back to other lives on the mainland, so our work force is diminished. Vacationers are looking at the “last chance to get away before the weather turns” so business is still good. I’m still learning and adjusting to new routines, and I’m getting more hours in than I did for most of the summer.

I’ve had company here. Three of my sisters and other family and friends came for a week on Beaver Island, and to help me celebrate my 60th birthday. We had good talks and several excursions, outstanding meals and lots of puzzle and game time. Every spare minute, I wanted to spend with them!

I decided to read Jonathon Kellerman this summer. He’s a good writer of not-too-dark murder mysteries that are written in series with the same cast of characters. Easy to follow, not too heavy, mindless summer reading. Except that I find them hard to put down. And he’s a very prolific writer. Having never read his books before, I’ve been blasting through a book a week, and will still never finish his Alex Delaware series before the summer is over.

Blackberries, as I mentioned, are ripening. It’s easy to start by just looking, fill a hand, then a hat, then rush back to the house for a bowl. A wander ’round the yard turns into a serious walk around the property and before I know it, an afternoon is gone.

In my garden, I’ve been harvesting potatoes and tomatoes and squash. Everything else is finished for the season, and just as well, because I’m weary of it. I had big plans this year that never quite came to fruition, and left me feeling behind and discouraged in the “gardening department”. I’m over it now, and looking forward to next year.

We are all noting the passage of time, here on Beaver Island. Many restaurants and gift shops are seasonal. Fall is in the air. School will be starting soon. Every day I hear someone say “I need to get out there before they close for the season” or “We won’t have many more beach days this year”.

I have a list of things I’m anxious to write about. In anticipation of my birthday, I wrote a list of the sixty most influential women in my life. My sister, Cheryl, and I had a long talk about Life Lessons. I’m planning to elaborate on my visit with my family, my jobs and on turning sixty.

Right now, easily distracted, I’m trying to experience and enjoy all the summer has to offer, before the season is done.